Recently, we dedicated a series of posts to exploring the parallels between biological dentistry and naturopathy.
The State of Conventional Dentistry
Now, approaching the conversation from a slightly different point of view, let’s have a closer look at the various aspects of conventional dentistry.
To begin, let’s start with what everyone already knows to be true about dentistry in general. Ask anyone on the street, “What is a dentist,” and you’ll hear something along the lines of, “A dentist is someone who fixes teeth or pulls them out.”
Now, that ‘fixing’ might involve treating the gums around the teeth. In that case, the dentist who specializes in that kind of treatment is called a periodontist, and the field is called periodontics.
Or, the ‘fixing’ might mean moving one or more tooth’s position, which is known as orthodontics. The specialist in this case is an orthodontist. There are a variety of reasons why artifically induced tooth movement might be performed, including malocclusion (i.e., when the upper and lower teeth are not properly aligned) and the simple phenomenon of shifting tooth placement as we age.
Meanwhile, if a tooth has become so badly damaged that it cannot be healed or fixed with fillings or a crown, then a specialist known as an endodontist might perform a so-called ‘root canal.’ In this case, the pulp of the tooth is surgically removed, leaving just the tooth’s outer shell. This is commonly referred to as ‘saving a tooth.’ However, in reality there is no longer a live tooth at all, just as a corpse is no longer a living human being. Thus, a root-canaled ‘tooth’ is just a more or less functional placeholder for what was once a living tooth. In any event, this specialized field of conventional dentistry is called endodontics.
Finally, when a tooth is extracted, that can be done either by a general dentist or an oral surgeon. Why would such a procedure take place? Well, there can be many reasons. One might be finances: a patient cannot afford to have a root canal done. Or, the tooth is completely non-salvageable, and – in my opinion – ‘no tooth’ is better than a dead tooth. Serious trauma, like getting hit with a flying baseball, is enough to kill a tooth. If you want to have the tooth replaced with an implant, then that would be done by an general dentist or an implantologist.
The Common Denominator
No matter which of the aforementioned specialists is utilized, the one thing they all have in common is that their treatment is limited to the mouth. That is, everything takes place above the Adam’s apple and stops just below the rim of the eyes (if considered vertically) or starts at the lips and extends to the back of the throat (horizontally considered). The point is, both considerations are confined to a very small part of the body, in an entirely imaginary ‘box’ of sorts.
The problem with this conventional approach to dentistry, regardless of the specialization involved, is that there is seldom any consideration at all with regard to how the procedures done within the confines of this imaginary box will affect the rest of the body, whether presently or in the future.
Also, a high percentage of the dental materials conventionally used today are just plain toxic. In fact, any toxicologist would be shocked to find out that dentists are still inserting and implanting these materials into persons’ mouths. This, too, needs to be more fully discussed, but in later posts.
Until then, take care, and watch out for flying baseballs!
Dr. Blanche Grube
Biological dentistry, like naturopathy, is less a distinct discipline in its own right than it is a particular way of practicing a common discipline. In the case of naturopathy, that common discipline is medicine, considered in its widest application.
Refusal and Separation
Now, biological dentistry first became known by what it refused to do: amalgam fillings, root canals, titanium implants, fluoride treatments, etc. Then, of necessity, alternative therapies were introduced, such as the use of composite fillings, cavitation surgery, etc. We learn more every day, and our protocol for safe dental revision reflects in practice the knowledge that we gain.
In a similar way, naturopathy began as a reaction to what its advocates and practitioners saw as a growing distancing of the conventional medical world from that of nature. Symptoms overshadowed causes, and pharmaceutical drugs largely replaced natural remedies that had been used for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.
The Principles of Naturopathy
Progressively, naturopaths developed their guiding principles of practice, which were finally “codified” in the 1980’s by the AANP (American Association of Naturopathic Physicians).
As a recap of what we’ve discussed in our most recent posts, those principles are:
- The healing power of nature (vis medicatrix naturae)
- Identify and treat the causes (tolle causam)
- First do no harm (primum non nocere)
- Doctor as teacher (docere)
- Treat the whole person
Bringing It All Home
These are the same tenets that Dr. Huggins always taught. In fact, they all come back to a single principle: “First do no harm”!
However, this is not limited to what we actually do. It includes what we don’t do, but should. What do I mean by this? We stopped teaching people (i.e., doctor as teacher) how to take care of themselves!
For instance, you may have the beginnings of a cavity where you have some hyopcalcification in the enamel. Rather than having that drilled out and replaced with filling material, wouldn’t it be a lot easier to provide your body with the proper amount of minerals, enabling that hypocalcification to heal itself within as little as twenty-four hours?
Then, there’s the principle of identifying and treating the causes. Let’s make that really simple: it’s what you eat. That’s right: nutrition is the foundation of good health, oral and otherwise. “Let thy food be thy medicine, and thy medicine be thy food.”
Finally, let’s consider the principle “Treat the whole person.” How are dental materials we use going to affect the whole body of a given patient? For example, how will bridgework that locks the bones of the head affect the whole body? How will putting nickel based orthodontic wires in a teenager’s body affect their mood? I could go on and on.
Instead, I’ll stop here and wish you all a safe and happy weekend!
All the best,
Dr. Blanche Grube
In the light of our last blogpost, there are some important points that need to be clarified. Certainly, this short post is not intended to be either the full or the last word on this matter. However, I think three important points need to be made, as incentives to further discussion.
Principles and Practice
Firstly, there is a big difference between principles and practice. A principle tells you what and why you may or may not do something. A practice, on the other hand, tells you how it is done.
“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” is a principle that applies with particular aptness to medicine in general. It’s the difference between treating a person with a broken arm rather than a broken arm that ‘happens’ to be attached to a person.
Acute and Chronic
Another important point to consider is the difference between acute conditions and chronic ones. While it’s generally more important to look for the causes of symptoms in all their living complexity, sometimes symptoms themselves urgently demand attention.
You’re at the dinner table and one of your fellow diners suddenly reaches for his or her throat, desperately gasping for breath. Now, that’s hardly the time to run field diagnostic tests on the epiglottis (i.e., that generally handy flap that neatly closes over the trachea when you swallow food or drink). No, the symptom (i.e., suffocation) must be treated immediately.
In the same way, if I get hit by a car and need surgery to stop the internal bleeding and reset my broken bones, I need more than a homeopathic remedy if I want to arrest the bleeding and mend my fractures, though the right remedy certainly would help me heal.
So, provided the guiding principle is that medicine exists to assist the body in its own work of healing, with treatment of symptoms as a subordinate principle in service of the first, then I see no difficulty achieving harmony.
Technology: A Great Tool in the Right Hands
Finally, it’s impossible to deny that technology is a great tool in the right hands. In my clinic today, I have access to sophisticated techniques that were not even dreamt of when I was a dental student: things like ozone therapy, 3-D xrays, and laser beams. These are phenomenal assets to any medical practice. It all depends on why and how they’re used. After all, a tool is like an extension of the hand, and every tool is ultimately only as good as the hand that wields it. The same hammer used to build a house can knock it down, board-by-board.
I could go on and on. We haven’t even mentioned the principle of prevention. We’ll save that for a post of its own!
Meanwhile, all the best,
Dr. Blanche Grube
We’ve covered four of the six fundamental principles of naturopathic medicine so far. Now, we turn to the fifth (according to our own order, not that of the AANP House of Delegates Position Paper).
Anyway, here’s what that document has to say about this post’s subject:
“Naturopathic physicians educate their patients and encourage self-responsibility for health. They also recognize and employ the therapeutic potential of the doctor-patient relationship.”
Doctor-Patient Relationship and Patient Education
The limitation of the term “doctor” to indicate practitioners within the various disciplines of the medical field is a fairly recent phenomenon. In the academic world even today, “doctor” signifies what it originally meant, going back to its Latin source: teacher. In fact, the ancient Latin word for medical doctor is “medicus.”
Anyway, to be a doctor – in any discipline – is, firstly and fundamentally, to be a teacher of that discipline. Naturopathy highlights this aspect of a physician’s work, seeing the sharing of knowledge and wisdom as paramount among a practitioner’s duties.
This aspect of “doctor as teacher” flows from the doctor-patient relationship. The very fact that the doctor is envisioned as owing the patient a duty to teach presupposes on the part of the patient the ability to learn. In turn, this learning capacity implies personal responsibility. For this reason, naturopathy strongly insists upon the indispensable role of the patient in his or her own health and healing.
How Centers for Healing Applies these Principles
At my office in Scranton, northeast Pennsylvania, we are all about education, both of health professionals and of patients. My team members and I regularly attend continuing education conferences around the country, both to refresh our knowledge of fundamentals and to keep abreast of new developments.
Moreover, a big part of patient education is insisting upon each one’s personal responsibility for his or her health. The toxic world in which we live certainly is the cause of the health problems endured by many of our patients. However, what they do about those problems is up to them! My team can do much to address the causes of some of their ailments, but compliance with recovery and lifestyle directives is entirely in the hands of each individual. I often remind my patients with the simple reassurance: “Remember, it’s your health (mouth, body, life, etc.) that’s at stake here.”
Finally, all my patients are given my personal cell phone number. I call each one of them within 24 hours of any procedure to see how they’re doing. I don’t do house calls, but I do make emergency, after-hours appointments with patients in urgent need of care. Am I saying this to blow the fanfare in my own parade? Not at all. I’m simply saying that I take my responsibilities as doctor/teacher very seriously. Frankly, I don’t see how I could do otherwise.
I hope you enjoy these blogposts, all of which are an extension of my work as a teaching doctor!
All the best,
Dr. Blanche Grube
Medicine: is it designed to treat diseases or the people who have them? That may seem like a question that begs an obvious answer. The problem is that different people see different “obvious answers.” As we’ll see, these varying answers boil down to essentially two points of view. Medical care either primarily focuses on actual diseases – to be “cured” or, more often, merely palliated – or it primarily focuses on healthy persons – in whom disease is to be prevented.
The Naturopathic Viewpoint
Let’s see what the naturopaths have to say in this regard. As the AANP House of Delegates Position Paper explains:
“Naturopathic physicians treat each patient by taking into account individual physical, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, social, and other factors. Since total health also includes spiritual health, naturopathic physicians encourage individuals to pursue their personal spiritual development.”
The Art of Asking Questions and Listening to Answers
We’ve already discussed the importance naturopathy places on the initial doctor/patient conversation. A good conversationalist knows when to speak and when to be silent. Above all, he or she knows how to listen to another, to really hear what is being said – as well as what is being merely implied.
There really are two distinct paradigms when it comes to the current state of healthcare. The first is primarily about disease management and sick care. The second, primarily about personal healthcare and prevention. Now, of course, a diseased or sick person needs adequate treatment, and it would be incorrect to say that all standard medicine ignores the preventative aspect of treatment. This is more a question of emphasis than one of total exclusion. I’ll have more to say in this regard in our next post, where I attempt to sum up all that we’ve seen regarding the fundamental principles of naturopathy. Human life and health are complex issues, as the AANP’s Position Paper affirms:
“Naturopathic medicine recognizes the harmonious functioning of all aspects of the individual as being essential to health. The multifactorial nature of health and disease requires a personalized and comprehensive approach to diagnosis and treatment. Naturopathic physicians treat the whole person, taking all of these factors into account.”
As a biological dentist, I am committed to helping my patients in whatever way I can. Sometimes, a dental revision is more preventative than curative. This is the case when no significant health problems have yet developed. Other times, dental revisions are life-changing events, enabling patients to regain their health . . . and, yes, to regain their lives!
I have witnessed dramatic recoveries, some of which have been nothing short of amazing, even bordering on miraculous. In my own case, soon after my first meeting with Dr. Hal Huggins, my clinically diagnosed and advanced state of leukemia was rapidly cured following the removal of my root canals, and without a single other medical intervention. “Take away the cause, take away the effect.”
Getting back to my own work as a dentist, I can express my paradigm simply and succinctly: I do not treat teeth and gums. Nor do I treat mouths. I treat persons, each of whom has his or her own individual teeth, gums, and mouths. And, yes, his or her own story: stories are meant to be told, and the storyteller must be heard.
All the best,
Dr. Blanche Grube